On March 19, 2009, Alex Ovechkin scored his 50th goal of the season in a 5-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning. Ovechkin became the Capitals’ first ever three-time 50-goal scorer (which he has done three more times since), but it was what he did after the goal that became legend. To celebrate, Ovechkin dropped his stick to the ice and warmed his hands as if the stick were on fire.
Tuesday, the Le Journal de Montréal published an interview with former Capitals goaltender Jose Theodore. The former Hart Trophy winning goaltender admitted the hot stick celebration was his idea, but he criticized Ovechkin’s form.
RMNB reader Louis-Pierre Smith Lacroix has your translation of the French interview.
Alex Ovechkin was criticized for his burning stick reaction when he scored his 50th goal in 2010, but I will make a confession to you. He was searching for an original way to celebrate and it was me who suggested to him the burning stick concept. The scoundrel never gave me credit for the concept, but I must say that his execution was some sort of failure. In fact, he looked more like a guy playing the piano than like a guy warming his hands near a fire. Also, the guys were supposed to gather around the stick, but they were shy and did not follow. The moment still made history and we had a good laugh.
The rest of the team was indeed too shy to join in.
“He told me he was going to do it,” former Capitals defenseman Mike Green said at the time to The Canadian Press. “He wanted me to join in, but there was no way I’d join in on that. I just kind of stood back and let him do what he does.”
On top of that, the hot stick celebration caused a lot of controversy league wide as analysts — Don Cherry literally soiled himself — and players debated if it was bad sportsmanship. The Caps and Lightning played again the next week. Heading into that game, there was a lot of talk of frontier justice and payback.
Lightning winger Ryan Malone talked about making Ovechkin “pay the right way.” Center Jeff Halpern added, “It’s up to our team to do something about it.” And Coach Rick Tocchet said the matter might have been settled with a “three-hour first period” — in other words, plenty of fighting — in his playing days.
“If somebody wants to hit me, always pleasure,” Ovechkin said. “I’m ready. I don’t care what’s gonna happen. I’m ready. But I don’t think it’s gonna be some war, fights, hits.”
And to think: all of that ridiculousness was Jose Theodore’s fault.
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